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The Two Rivers of Lewis & Clark
Entries For November 3:
Captain Clark (current)
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This morning at 8 o'clock, an Indian called from the other side, and informed that he had something of consequence to communicate. We sent a pirogue for him, and he informed us as follows: "Five men of the Mandan nation, out hunting in a S.W. direction about eight leagues, were surprised by a large party of Sioux and Pawnees. One man was killed and two wounded with arrows, and 9 horses taken; 4 of the Wetersoon nation were missing, and they expected to be attacked by the Sioux, &c." We thought it well to show a disposition to aid and assist them against their enemies, particularly those who came in opposition to our councils. And I determined to go to the town with some men and, if the Sioux were coming to attack the nation, to collect the warriors from each village and meet them. Those ideas were also those of Captain Lewis.
I crossed the river in about an hour after the arrival of the Indian express with 23 men including the interpreters, and flanked the town and came up on the back part. The Indians, not expecting to receive such strong aid in so short a time, were much surprised, and a little alarmed at the formidable appearance of my party. The principal chiefs met me some distance from the town (say 200 yards) and invited me in to town. I ordered my party into different lodges, &c. I explained to the nation the cause of my coming in this formidable manner to their town was to assist and chastise the enemies of our dutiful children. I requested the grand chief to repeat the circumstances as they happened, which he did, as was mentioned by the express in the morning. I then informed them that if they would assemble their warriors and those of the different towns, I would go to meet the army of Sioux, &c., and chastise them for taking the blood of our dutiful children, &c. After a conversation of a few minutes among themselves, one chief - The Big Man, a Cheyenne - said they now saw that what we had told them was the truth: that when we expected the enemies of their nation were coming to attack them, or had spilled their blood, we were ready to protect them, and kill those who would not listen to our good talk. His people had listened to what we had told them, and fearlessly went out to hunt in small parties believing themselves to be safe from the other nations, and were killed by the Pawnees and Sioux.
"I knew," said he, "that the Pawnees were liars, and told the old chief who came with you (to confirm a peace with us) that his people were liars and bad men, and that we killed them like the buffalo - when we pleased. We had made peace several times and your nation has always commenced the war. We do not want to kill you, and will not suffer you to kill us or steal our horses. We will make peace with you as our two fathers have directed, and they shall see that we will not be the aggressors. But we fear the Arikaras will not be at peace long. My father, those are the words I spoke to the Arikaras in your presence. You see they have not opened their ears to your good counsels, but have spilled our blood. "Two Arikaras, whom we sent home this day, for fear of our people's killing them in their grief, informed us when they came here several days ago, that two towns of the Arikaras were making their moccasins, and that we had best take care of our horses, &c. Numbers of Sioux were in their towns and, they believed, not well disposed toward us. Four of the Wetersoons are now absent. They were to have been back in 16 days, they have been out 24. We fear they have fallen. My father, the snow is deep and it is cold. Our horses cannot travel through the plains. Those people who have spilt our blood have gone back. If you will go with us in the spring after the snow goes off, we will raise the warriors of all the towns and nations around about us, and go with you."
I told this nation that we should be always willing and ready to defend them from the insults of any nation who would dare to come to do them injury, during the time we remained in their neighborhood, and requested that they would inform us of any party who might at any time be discovered by their patrols or scouts. I was sorry that the snow in the plains had fallen so deep since the murder of the young chief by the Sioux as prevented their horses from traveling. I wished to meet those Sioux and all others who will not open their ears, but make war on our dutiful children, and let you see that the warriors of your Great Father will chastise the enemies of his dutiful children the Mandans, Wetersoons, and Minnetarees, who have opened their ears to his advice. You say that the Pawnees or Arikaras were with the Sioux. Some bad men may have been with the Sioux. You know there are bad men in all nations. Do not get mad with the Arikaras until we know if those bad men are countenanced by their nation, and we are convinced those people do not intend to follow our counsels. You know that the Sioux have great influence over the Arikaras, and perhaps have led some of them astray. You know that the Arikaras are dependent on the Sioux for their guns, powder, and ball; and it was policy in them to keep on as good terms as possible with the Sioux until they had some other means of getting those articles, &c. You know yourselves that you are compelled to put up with little insults from the Crees and Assiniboines (or Stone Indians) because if you go to war with those people, they will prevent the traders in the north from bringing you guns, powder, and ball, and by that means distress you very much. But when you will have certain supplies from your Great American Father of all those articles, you will not suffer any nation to insult you, &c.
After about two hours' conversation on various subjects, all of which tended toward their situation, &c., I informed them I should return to the Fort. The chief said they all thanked me very much for the fatherly protection which I showed toward them; that the village had been crying all the night and day for the death of the brave young man who fell, but now they would wipe away their tears and rejoice in their father's protection, and cry no more.
I then paraded and crossed the river on the ice, and came down on the north side. The snow so deep, it was very fatiguing. Arrived at the Fort after night, gave a little taffee [dram] to my party. A cold night. The river rose its former height. The chief frequently thanked me for coming to protect them; and the whole village appeared thankful for that measure.
Reprinted by permission of the American Studies Programs at the University of Virginia.
The complete text can also be downloaded for printing from their website.